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The Tie Between Open Education and Social Justice Strengthens

Post by Lauri Aesoph, Manager, Open Education

Human security, a term coined in the early 1990s, is a subject unfamiliar to many. It refers to a human-centred approach to security over a national one and includes fields such as international relations, strategic studies, and human rights. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on individual well-being, social relations, and economies, as well as increasing attention to social justice, have brought human security and all that it encompasses to the forefront.

In answer to this need, BCcampus and the University of Northern British Columbia are proud to announce an updated and openly licensed edition of the first and only university textbook on human security.

The creation of the newly released Human Security in World Affairs: Problems and Opportunities – 2nd Edition began in 2017, when BCcampus received an email from Dr. Alex Lautensach, associate professor at UNBC, and Dr. Sabina Lautensach, founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Human Security, stating, “We are looking for a way to publish our textbook of human security under a Creative Commons licence. Our colleague suggested that you might be able to help us.” The Lautensachs served as editors for the first edition of Human Security in World Affairs, published by Caesarpress in 2013.

Since that time, the Lautensachs — who are based in Terrace, B.C. — have worked tirelessly with a team of 22 subject-matter experts from around the world to revise the first edition, a book that encompass the full spectrum of disciplines contributing to the human security field. They wanted to ensure that this comprehensive and thoroughly referenced second edition accurately portrayed all sources of human insecurity, such as scarcity of resources, pollution, climate change, human rights violations, malnutrition, and poverty, which are addressed in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and their agenda of freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom to live in dignity. (Kwantlen Polytechnic University has addressed these goals, in collaboration with Montgomery College and Maricopa Community Colleges, with their UN SDG Open Pedagogy Fellowship.)

When asked why they embrace this field, the Lautensachs refer to a quote by Mahbub ul Haq, a Pakistani economist, politician, international development theorist, and founder of the concept of human security: “In the last analysis, human security means a child who did not die, a disease that did not spread, an ethnic tension that did not explode, a dissident who was not silenced, a human spirit that was not crushed.”

In addition to BCcampus’ participation, UNBC’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology and its e-learning coordinator, Grant Potter, provided support with a publication grant. Canadian content contributors, in addition to UNBC faculty, are based at UBC, the University of Alberta, and the University of Toronto. Other represented nations include New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and the U.S.

To date, this remains the only academic text in the complex field of human security designed specifically as a pedagogical resource for teaching purposes. It addresses diverse academic disciplines, including political science, international relations, human ecology, development studies, peace research, international political economy, and others. It is aimed at the senior undergraduate and graduate levels. This second edition has been revised and updated as follows:

  • Each chapter begins with “Learning Outcomes and Big Ideas” and a chapter summary; chapters conclude with “Key Points,” “Extension Activities & Further Research,” and a “Suggested Reading” list. Terms are defined throughout each chapter, and indexed in an end-of-book glossary.
  • Includes current priorities, such as global health and global governance.
  • Focuses on probable futures, as well as themes of justice, quality of governance, and civil society.
  • Topics are suitable material for multiple academic disciplines.

At more than 1000 pages, this textbook is not designed to be read from cover to cover. Instead, instructors can select, and modify, applicable chapters for their specific course. The below table provides examples.

Discipline Study Topic (Chapter) Human Security Pillar
Socio-political Economic Health Environmental
Political Studies Individuals and groups outside of the state system (ch.7) Roots of terrorism, marginalization of individuals in society, law Resources and support for violent resistance Mental health factors in terrorism Social and natural determinants in radicalization
Geography Climate change and human security (ch. 8) Social inequities in causation and in victimization Market mechanisms, economic consequences Impacts of extreme weather, eco-health Regional variation in global change, ecosystem vulnerability
Ethics Human rights violations (ch.15) Origins of rights, monitoring and enforcement Affordability of rights, ecological overshoot Backing up rights to health Environmental limits to grantability, overshoot
Human Sciences Health security in the context of social-ecological change (ch.17) Political power relationships and social organization affecting public health, pandemics Economic mechanisms affecting public health Physical, chemical, social factors determining eco-health, pandemics Health of ecosystems; resilience; impacts of environmental change

“The teaching and learning of human security themes at all levels of education will play a crucial part in determining the particular future that humanity will encounter in this century,” say Alex and Sabina Lautensach, the editors of Human Security in World Affairs. “We trust that this textbook will contribute to that need.”

Notable quotes

“The idea of human security is based on an abhorrence of suffering, which necessarily extends to numerous other species about whose experiences we know very little.”


—Sabina Lautensach, founding editor-in-chief, Journal of Human Security

“All over the world, some of the most atrocious human rights violations are committed by so-called security forces. The ‘human’ in ‘human security’ helps to restore public ownership and an ethic of care, which is what security is about.”


—Alex Lautensach, associate professor, University of Northern British Columbia

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